Welcome back for another weekly review of Avatar! This week, we meet the Warriors of Kyoshi. How does the episode hold up? Here are my thoughts.
Viewers who have seen later episodes know that the cast becomes more gender-balanced and more fully realized as the show progresses. Knowing that makes these early episodes all the more interesting: Azula, Ty Lee, Mai, and Toph — all major characters — don’t even get introduced until season 2, and Suki won’t show up again until the middle of that season. This episode shows how the show’s crew wants to break the Nickelodeon mold of appealing to male children, and only succeeds as far as they were allowed.
By that, I mean that instead of empowering the one woman already on the show, this episode introduces a group of strong women so that one of the young male characters can learn that the gender divide isn’t as clear as he thinks. While a good lesson to show, it’s still ultimately about the male character’s learning experience, sidelining the females. The writers ramp up Sokka’s sexism here, which ultimately pays off, I thought. It’s just odd that they didn’t do too much to develop Katara, the show’s only current female lead, aside from some jealous exchanges with Aang. And it doesn’t exactly help that the Kyoshi warriors are left behind for the next 28 episodes, until after the four other primary female characters come in.
Still, while the show may be working out the kinks of dealing with Nickelodeon, they’re clearly trying to introduce these themes early.
2. The fish market scene.
Wonderful display of the transfer of information, through the transfer of fish. Take special note of when the switch from Earth Kingdom to Fire Nation occurs: Not only does the music suddenly layer horns on top of the string arrangement, you can also see clear body language when the man in green garments hands a fish to the man in red. Unlike the gossip-like quality of the other interactions, the man in green here has wide, afraid eyes while the man in red menacingly leans forward. Given that this man is next seen serving Zuko the fish, I think the implication is that he strong-armed the vendor into giving him both the fish and the information for Prince Zuko. While the war is still a few links removed from this village, those links are still active and can still affect the lives of everyone involved.
3. Western styles and Eastern styles.
Never has Avatar’s mixture of Eastern and Western styles been more apparent than in this episode’s climactic fight scene, in which the two rows of Asian-inspired village houses evoke the one-street small towns of old Hollywood Westerns. The coloring in this scene also becomes more sepia-toned, and the directing mimics those old gunfight scenes at points, too. Factor in the fact that the character designs are Asian-inspired, as are the martial arts on display, and you have a complete East-meets-West scene.
4. Aang and his animals.
Man, I love this about Aang. As the Avatar, he’s not just trying to learn the elements and balance out a cultural divide. He’s also trying to balance humanity with nature. Which isn’t to say that Aang does anything outright environmentalist here — he doesn’t — but his interactions with animals speak volumes. In the first two episodes, he had Appa and the penguins; in the third, he had Momo; now, he has effortless fun with the koi and the unagi. And speaking of the unagi…
5. Aang, the hero.
This is the first time we see Aang start to turn away from a threatening situation, only to go back and risk everything to save people. Linking what he does here with knowledge of how he ran away in the past (first-time viewers, this will be filled in soon), this moment sees Aang’s first steps towards accepting his responsibility as the Avatar and becoming a hero.
What did you think of the episode? Let me know in the comments!